Sleep hygiene

Bedtime hygiene often consists of washing your face and brushing your teeth. Sleep hygiene refers to habits you develop over a period of time that promote good sleep.

Good sleep habits promote restful sleep and daytime alertness.They can also prevent the development of sleep problems and disorders.

You can create good sleep hygiene by doing the following.

  • Get regular exercise, but not right before bed.
  • Find a good temperature for sleeping (cool is often the best).
  • Go to bed only when you are tired and get into your favorite sleeping position. If you can't fall asleep right away, leave the room and find something quiet to do (such as reading). When you are tired, go back to bed and try to fall asleep.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day - even on the weekends or during vacation.
  • Avoid taking naps during the day. If you do nap, limit the time to one nap of less than 1 hour. Do not nap later than 3 p.m.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal or spicy foods before bedtime. If you are hungry at bedtime, eat a light snack (such as a glass of warm milk or cheese and crackers).
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid bright lights and computer screen time shortly before bedtime.
  • Avoid nicotine before bed. Quitting smoking or cutting down can help you fall asleep better and wake up fewer times each night.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex. Let your body "know" that the bed is for sleeping.
  • Avoid noise and bright rooms. Consider putting up darkening shades on the windows, wearing earplugs, or using a white noise machine if you live in a noisy neighborhood.
  • Avoid watching the clock.
  • Don't take your worries to bed.

If you think you may have depression, anxiety or stress, talk with your health care provider. Problems staying asleep can be a sign of depression.

What if I wake up?

Many people wake up at night for various reasons.

  • If you need to get up to use the bathroom, try to use a nightlight to see, instead of turning on a main light. Bright lights can stimulate your body and may keep you from falling asleep.
  • If you get up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, do not stay in bed. Leave the bedroom and do a quiet activity (such as reading). Do not do office work, housework or watch television. When you are tired, lie down again and you should be able to get back to sleep in about 20 minutes.

If your insomnia persists for more than a month or is affecting how you feel during the day, consider a consultation with one of our certified behavioral sleep medicine specialists at a convenient location near you.